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STATEMENT OF THE HONORABLE SAMUEL K. SKINNER, SECRETARY OF
Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee: I appreciate the opportunity to appear before the Subcommittee today to describe the Department's efforts to combat terrorist threats against civil aviation.
As the recent destruction of Pan Am Flight 103 tragically reminds all of us, despite worldwide efforts to strengthen security, civil aviation continues to be a target for criminal and terrorist acts. My Department and the Federal Aviation Administration, the State Department, foreign civil aviation authorities, the airlines and airports, law enforcement and intelligence agencies, and the dedicated men and women who are on the front lines screening passengers, checking baggage, and handling cargo have together taken tremendous strides to make the system safe and secure.
Yet, we can and must do more to thwart the cowardly and despicable acts of terrorists.
The challenge we face is a formidable one, for we live in a dynamic world where, as technology and political agendas change, so also do the threats against civil aviation. Where hijacking was once the preferred form of terrorist activity, today's terrorist has all too frequently turned to sabotage — wantonly aimed at the total destruction of aircraft and their precious human cargo. Through the 1970s and into the 1980s, concerted action by the world aviation community stemmed the hijacking menace: there were only two attempted hijackings of Unregistered aircraft last year; and the number of attempted hijackings of foreign airlines was half of what it was earlier in the decade.
In the past several years, though, the world has been witness to four horrific acts of sabotage: Air India Flight 182, TWA Flight 840, Korean Air Flight 858, and most recently Pan Am Flight 103.
The primary lesson to be learned from these far flung and diverse acts of terrorism is that we must continue to build on the solid foundation of security measures built over the last decade and a half. We must continue to evolve strong yet flexible approaches that will bring our best technology, and our best people to bear on this problem. Finally, the process of
reviewing, refining, and redirecting aviation security must be continuous. We must never rest on the existing foundations of our aviation security system. We must be ready to improve them.
As a culmination of a number of initiatives over the last two decades, effective and responsible approaches are being pursued. They include:
effective passenger and baggage screening techniques; imposition of extraordinary security measures in special circumstances;
worldwide use of x-ray and metal detecting equipment; in-depth assessments of U.S. and foreign airport security;
the Federal Air Marshal Program;
tightened control of access to aircraft and security sensitive areas;
research and development of new security techniques and detection technologies;
analysis of intelligence on terrorist activities; and technical assistance and training.
Whenever necessary, we have sought additional resources to strengthen our security-related activities. This fiscal year, 4
we are increasing the FAA's civil aviation security workforce by an additional 56 personnel, and have requested 120 more security positions in our FY 1990 budget, which will bring the total security force to almost 700. These additional employees will help significantly in responding to international threats and to continue to improve security here in the United States.
In addition to investing in human resources, we believe that continued investment in new technologies will reap great returns for aviation security. We have been accelerating the delivery schedule of the thermal neutron analysis (TNA) units we have developed for explosives detection. This remarkable system is the result of three years of FAA-directed research on an explosive detection system designed to detect all commercial and military explosives that might be concealed in checked baggage and air cargo, including otherwise hard to detect plastic explosives.(
Prototype TNA systems have already been tested at the Los Angeles and San Francisco Airports during June 1987-March 1988. Six TNA units will be delivered and placed in operation during the June 1989 to January 1990 time frame, six months ahead of schedule. We believe this unit shows great promise for effectively screening passenger luggage. Our experience in
examining over 30,000 bags using thermal neutron analysis demonstrated that it could screen baggage with a high success rate (95 percent) and a low false alarm rate (4 percent), even with minimal quantities of explosives. The first TNA system will be installed at JFK Airport in June. Research is also * underway on a vapor detection system for checking people for explosives. A prototype has been tested with promising results, and we hope to have an improved prototype available for testing late next year.
We also are continuing work to develop improved weapons detection capabilities, including efforts for the detection of plastic weapons, and are conducting an evaluation of state-ofthe-art detection equipment now available commercially. Further, we continue to solicit new ideas from the scientific and academic communities with a view toward identifying and developing additional tools to enhance security.
While we continue to pursue these domestic initiatives, we are also working in the international arena to develop jjniform approaches to combat terrorism in the skies. As you are aware, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) already has in place a set of security standards and recommended practices, incorporated into Annex 17 to the Chicago Convention. One